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Wednesday, 29 October 2014


From 2010 to 2011 before starting to teach full time at a landbased further education college I ran SurvivalHobbies. I was originally asked to teach some bushcraft and survival skills sessions to a Duke of Edinburgh's Award group as the skill section of their award and things grew from their to include delivering regular courses for that school and also environmental education, Forest School and other activities for a range of groups. 

Writing the curriculum and delivering courses and perhaps more than anything else choosing a name for SurvivalHobbies played a big part in my personal understanding of what bushcraft is and also helped me realise just how important and significant it could be when used to supplement, support and enrich educational activities.

I wanted a name for my company that didn't imply I would be teaching 'survivalism' or trying to prepare young people (remember most of my courses were delivered to DofE groups and school children) for an impending apocalypse. Yes there may be call to educate them on the kind of skills which will help them in a wilderness environment such as navigation, basic pioneering skills (knots, lashings etc..), first aid and weather interpretation especially if we are planning to send them out on multi day expeditions (which the DofE groups I was dealing with would have been doing). But we don't need to train them for a zombie apocalypse

What I wanted was to teach survival skills (or bushcraft) as a fun recreational activity, I think if we focus too much on a perceived need to be proficient in these skills in case of emergency or impending survival situations we can take a lot of the fun and enjoyment out of the learning, in fact instead of learning it becomes training. What I wanted was to help people love the outdoors and enjoy the more primitive/traditional aspects of the wilderness/outdoor experience and develop skills which just a few years ago everyone would have had. Skills like being able to whittle simple objects, improvise repairs for equipment and tools instead of just buying new ones, identifying plants and animals, cooking on a fire and sleeping outdoors. That's why I called it SurvivalHobbies. 

As my personal philosophy of what bushcraft is and how I can use it to educate has developed I have moved away from using the word survival skills almost completely. I think the two are separate and should be treated as distinct entities. My definitions follow;

     Bushcraft; is the art of living sustainably and reasonably comfortably in a wilderness or ‘bush’ environment.But it is not solely about the long term 'living' skills it includes things like foraging, camp craft, traditional skills, woodland management, wood work and really can be as broad a subject as you want. 

Survival is simply that; to survive. Many skills of bushcraft could be applied to some survival situations (not all though) but ultimately survival is the goal and our bushcraft skills MIGHT help us reach that goal. 

I would now definitely consider myself to be a 'bushcrafter' rather than a 'survivor'? Does that make sense? I would like to think that my bushcraft skills would help me survive but when I practice and teach bushcraft it is not with the ultimate goal or aim of; "when my plane crashes I'll need to know this" or "when society collapses and there's no more electricity or gas this is how I'll survive" but rather I would like to think that the bushcraft skills I teach could enhance someone's understanding of nature, give them a better understanding of a traditional countryside skill such as charcoal making or coppicing, or help develop skills which someone might use in their work like tracking or ecology. 

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